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Companies to Recycle Marcellus Region Well Liners

Municipal Recycling

WellSpring Environmental and Ultra-Poly Corp. partner to collect and process an estimated 10,000 tons of plastic per year.

Recycling Today Staff August 14, 2012

The Pennsylvania Recycling Markets Center Inc. (RMC)  has formed a new business partnership to collect and recycle plastic well pad liners from gas drilling sites in the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania.

News conference speakers, from left: Brett Fulk, CFO of WellSpring Environmental Services; David LaFiura, right, vice president of the Ultra-Poly Corp.; Robert Bylone, president and executive director of the PA Recycling Markets Center; Deputy PA Environmental Protection Secretary Vince Brisini; and PA Secretary of Community and Economic Development C. Alan Walker.“This is a first-of-its-kind venture that will produce major and dramatic benefits for Pennsylvania in addition to new jobs and growth for the companies directly,” says RMC Executive Director Robert Bylone Jr.

According to the RMC, the benefits include reclaiming millions of pounds of plastic, slowing the consumption of landfill space, reducing truck traffic around drill sites and increasing jobs in the area.

Partners in the venture are WellSpring Environmental Services LLC, headquartered in Orwigsburg, Pa., and Ultra-Poly Corp., based in Portland, Pa.

Both companies are members of the RMC’s Center of Excellence, a network of recycled materials processors and end users of recycled materials.

“The new recycling venture with WellSpring and Ultra-Poly is expected to take at least 20 million pounds a year of plastic well pad liner material out of the waste stream and turn it into useful new products,” Bylone says.

An estimated 100 million pounds of high density plastic were used for well-pad liners by drillers in the Marcellus Shale region in 2011. Currently, most of that material is disposed of in landfills when it needs to be replaced or removed.

Ultra-Poly, a North American recycler of polyethylene and polypropylene plastic, has designed a way to process the liner material and has built a recycling plant specifically for that purpose.

“We are supplying the recycled plastic to several existing customers, including Axion International, which turns the material into composite railroad ties and other composite building components,” says David LaFiura, vice president of Ultra-Poly. “The market is potentially huge, we have developed an environmentally responsible method, we are the only company doing this and we are in position to recycle as much of the liner material as we can get.”Wellspring tractor-trailer (in front of gas flare) ready to haul shredded liner pieces to Ultra-Poly plant for recycling.

Similarly, WellSpring says it has developed equipment for separating well pad liners on site so the pieces from one well site can be trucked away for recycling in a single trailer load. In the past, excavators were used to rip well pad liners into large sections, and it typically took eight to 10 trips with roll-off containers to transport the sections from a single site to a landfill for disposal.

“There’s not one well pad in Pennsylvania where this new approach doesn’t make sense,” says Jonas Kreitzer, president of WellSpring. “We can do liner removal more efficiently, at less cost, while cutting down truck traffic, protecting the environment, and generating commercially reusable material.”

An estimated 20,000 pounds of liner material is used per drilling site. The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued 3,510 Marcellus Shale well permits in 2011 and another 1,243 through mid-May of this year. The department has already issued permits to the two companies for the process.

Bylone says the recycling process used for well-site liners may also be applicable to recycling agricultural film plastic.

Vince Brisini, deputy secretary for waste, air, radiation and remediation in the state DEP observes, “The development of the natural gas industry in Pennsylvania is progressing, and to their credit, the natural gas industry and the associated industries and services, are becoming more efficient in the management of resources. I am pleased to see another solution that has found a market which allows the recycling and re-use of these plastic well pad liners.”

Jay Alexander, general manager of the Wayne Township landfill in Clinton County, says, “Since the beginning of 2011, the Wayne Township landfill has been very active in looking for sustainable recycling opportunities for the plastic liner material being removed from the natural gas well sites. In working with WellSpring Environmental Services, we have found a solution.”

WellSpring and Ultra-Poly have so far invested about $4 million in research and development.

LaFiura says the partnership will generate at least 80 jobs for Ultra-Poly, provide added job security for another 180 existing company jobs, and add an estimated $1 million a year to state and local tax revenues. Meanwhile Kreitzer says WellSpring will be adding another dozen employees and expanding its truck fleet.

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